A review of ‘How to teach maths – understanding learners’ needs’

Review of  ‘How to teach maths’ by Steve Chinn

By Robert Jennings from the Dyscalculia Network (April 2021)

‘How to teach maths’ provides us with a complete overhaul of how we teach maths in our classrooms and gives us ideas, backed up by lots of research, as to how we can be more effective for our learners. This comprises adjustments to our presentation of maths, putting the needs of the learner first and the importance of early learning, which provides a key foundation for later success in the topic.

I have been teaching at a special educational needs centre for the last ten years and I felt pleased that so many of our daily practices are grounded in the teaching methods covered in this book.

I particularly enjoyed:

  • The numerous examples of classroom situations, which backed up the points being put forward. (Two lines of ‘symmetry’ springs to mind!)
  • The visual diagrams are well set out creating a step-by-step view on the different processes.
  • There is the right amount of statistical information, without becoming over bearing.
  • The frequent demonstrations of the futile attempt to rote learn ‘times tables’ for some students, which contributes to so much maths anxiety.
  • The idea that any maths intervention needs to begin at the foundation level, much earlier than is typically undertaken.
  • The emphasis of the importance of manipulatives. Also the fact that these concrete materials are useful in helping not just our special needs cohorts, but indeed should be employed for all of our maths learners.
  • The appendices were very useful. In particular, appendix 1 – ‘what an 11 year old is expected to know’, provides the opportunity to benchmark pupil’s performance in that given year.
  • How the confusion caused by maths language and inconsistences is set out really well and really does emphasise how they can negatively impact maths learning and reduce confidence in the topic.

I now want my own maths lab!

As maths assessments are such an important tool for finding out the reasons why a pupil may be struggling with maths and underachieving, the book could have perhaps had a more in-depth discussion on this subject. ^

Finally as a visual learner, the book would have been enhanced with the use of colour images and diagrams. However, ‘How to teach maths’, has left me truly inspired and much more informed on ways to improve the teaching of maths and understanding learner’s needs.

Rob Jennings – The Dyscalculia Network

^ “I have one comment for the review about assessment. I kept it succinct because I have my diagnosis book, ‘More Trouble with Maths’ (now approved by SASC) which is comprehensive. Always a problem writing a precis that condenses a complex topic!”

Steve Chinn